Oxford Literary Review 41 (2):274-289 (2019)

This essay examines Derrida's discussion, alongside Elisabeth Roudinesco, of the stability of the family unit in For What Tomorrow… By following Derrida's serial revisions of Roudinesco's claim that ‘the family is eternal’, it shows how the questions of the child and child-birth come front and centre for Derrida in theorizing the family unit. As Derrida points out, to be a ‘mother’ or a ‘father’ is ultimately less a question of genetic, or blood relation, than it is one of a role that is assumed through an act of recognition. This recognition may make recourse to legal or biological grounds, but it cannot be reduced to them. And so too, I argue, is it the case with the ‘child’ for deconstruction. To be a child is not simply to occupy a certain developmental or ontological status, but rather, first and foremost, to be recognized within a relation of heredity, be it as a member of a family or of a species. ‘Child’ therefore always designates a line of descent and inheritance, but for this very reason its determination must always also be held in suspense.
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DOI 10.3366/olr.2019.0283
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